As you know from watching the episode — and if you didn’t, you should probably stop reading right about now — the big foreshadowed death was none other than Stefan Salvatore, who sacrificed himself to send Katherine back to hell and save Mystic Falls.
Below, executive producer Julie Plec explains the thought process behind Stefan’s death, as well as what heaven (or “peace”) means in the world of The Vampire Diaries:
TVLINE | Before we get into specifics, why did anyone have to die?
It’s a lesson I learned early on from Kevin Williamson, which is that these kinds of stories really need to have life-or-death stakes, and no one will believe your death stakes if no one actually dies. It’s a lesson I’ve taken many liberties with over the years — including in this finale, since we see [Stefan] at peace after he dies — but it’s true when you’re making big moves, bringing characters full circle and finding closure for everyone. Closure comes as much in saying goodbye as it does in moving on. It felt necessary.
TVLINE | At any point, were you like, “We can’t do this to Stefan”? He and Caroline just got married.
Stefan was not No. 1 on the chopping block right away, because of that reason. We thought it was just so cruel. But when we landed on the idea of Caroline needing to leave him behind in honor of protecting her family, and then him needing to leave her behind in honor of protecting his, it felt somehow like the responsible outcome of a responsible relationship.
TVLINE | I also have some questions about that heavenly plane at the end…
TVLINE | Is that how we should refer to it?
For me, yes. Even as we called hell “Hell” this year, for me, it was always hell in quotation marks. It was The Vampire Diaries‘ representation of what hell must be like. For me, “peace” is The Vampire Diaries’ representation of what the afterlife might look like.
TVLINE | The way Matt said, “I think she found peace — somehow it feels like she did” has me wondering: Is it real, or is it just what they hope will be waiting for them after death?
That’s open to your own interpretation, probably in the same way we all interpret heaven. Is it something that we feel, and is believing that it exists when we die enough? Or does it actually exist? Or do we not believe in it at all? Is our peace just ultimate closure before we pass? It’s not the hardest philosophical question ever posed on television, but it is nice to gently ask that question: What does peace mean to you?
TVLINE | And what happens when exes bump into each other in “peace”?
[Laughs] It depends on what role they’re still meant to play in each other’s life. In my perfect peace, there might be a few exes missing.
TVLINE | For example, what happens when Alaric bumps into Jo and Jenna?
Oh, God, yes! Awkward. A love triangle in the afterlife.
TVLINE | It also kind of looked like Damon and Elena were separated at peace. Does each individual person have their own little world there?
You can ask yourself the question: Is peace an individual experience, or is it a shared energy? If Elena’s first moment at peace is being reunited with the family she lost that kickstarted this whole journey for her, maybe they all meet up at the drive-in for milkshakes with the Salvatores and anyone else who’s around, and they’ll all watch Scream on the big screen. Or maybe, after a life that’s lived in full, peace is about finding closure with those we’ve lost.
How do you feel about Stefan’s (and pretty much everyone else’s) death? Grade the finale below, then drop a comment with your thoughts.